After more than three decades spent in the oil and gas industry, Delreé Dumont decided to pursue her passion for “Cree-ating” full time. A member of the Onion Lake Cree Nation, Dumont has been a full-time artist since 2014.
She opened Delree’s Native Art Gallery on October 6th, 2015, in honour of her late mother’s birthday. Now every October 6th Dumont celebrates her mom’s birthday and her business anniversary by hosting a celebration of song, dance and lots of food.
Dumont resides on unceded traditional Ktunaxa territory in the interior of British Columbia where she sells her work at markets, gives classes and creates mesmerising murals inspired by the seven traditional teachings of Cree culture.
In a Q&A with Shop First Nations, Delreé Dumont shares the journey of transitioning from her life in oil and gas to full-time artist and entrepreneur as well as how her culture continues to inspire her life and work. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.
What is the reason you started your business?
During 32 years in oil and gas, on top of my regular job, I would volunteer in promoting the beauty of our culture and traditions by hosting many events in the corporate environment such as arts and craft shows, pow wow dancing, and lunch and learns. That’s how I decided to open a gallery space to promote other Indigenous artwork and crafts as well as my own.
Tell us a major win for your business/ big accomplishment.
In 2018, I was selected by the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada to go to Berlin to paint live in front of 300+ people at the Canadian Embassy where I painted two life size paintings of indigenous pow wow dancers.
Tell us about some roadblocks or challenges you have encountered during establishing your business.
My business was winning many awards such as the New Business Award, Business of the Year award, Best Place to buy Art (Bronze) and then my husband was diagnosed with leukaemia in December of 2017.
His treatment was looking promising and we expected him to make recovery; meanwhile the doctors said he would need 24/7 care for the next two years. I decided to close my gallery to take care of my husband, but then he unexpectedly passed away in late May 2018. It took almost a year before I picked up my brushes again.
My biggest challenge since has always been technology such as building websites or getting good people to help me in this area. Then, when Covid hit, learning how to use Zoom or Google Meets to continue teaching pointillism style online was a challenge.
My in person classes are typically four hours long; and getting the class down from four hours to one hour on Zoom/Google Meets was a huge learning curve.
Tell us about some future dreams for your business.
My hopes are to reopen Delree’s Native Art Gallery in a beautiful cabin located in Ferguson on Sundays and by appointment only, showcasing my art work, smudge fans and dreamcatchers. I also paint murals so I would like to continue doing that, as well as, continue showing my art at independent art galleries.
How do you advertise for your business?
On my website, on other Indigenous led websites such as Shop First Nations and Pass the Feather.org, independent online magazines such as MBC magazine, Alberta Native News interviews and when I do re-open D’NAG, local newspapers. In addition, I use rack Cards, business cards, promotional items and I am a member of the Chamber of Commerce and tourism. Wearing T-shirts and sweatshirts with my logo and website when teaching classes and driving around with my logo/name/phone number on my truck. I also attend local arts and craft shows and markets.
Can you share a funny or touching story about your business?
My slogan is “Where kindred spirits meet”. When I had my storefront, I had many many wonderful people come to my store and I had 4 part time staff who are amazing friends to this day. It was the people that came to my gallery not only looking for an authentic piece of artwork or craft but wanting to meet me in person that was very special and remain friends to this day.
What influence does Indigenous culture have on your business?
I love my culture and it has everything to do with what I create in my paintings, smudge fans and dreamcatchers. In my paintings I love painting wildlife, indigenous dancers in their regalia and anything to do with the natural world. I am also a traditional pow wow dancer.
Is there a meaning behind your logo? Tell us about it.
My logo is a jingle dancer. I originally wanted to be a jingle dancer and had a dress made for me. I went to my first pow wow as a jingle dancer and I remember how nervous I was, “Waiting for Grand Entry'' but I took comfort and saw all the other dancers line up in their respective categories. There were friends seeing old friends, shaking hands, laughing, telling stories or jokes, strangers would come shake my hand, the children all looking so cute in their regalia, the drumming, the smell of sweetgrass in the air…the energy was powerful.
Sadly, I quickly found out that the fast footwork of jingle dancing wasn’t for me; as I had twisted my left knee skiing in my early 20’s and it still pains me today. I switched to traditional as it is a grandmother's dance – more my speed. Lol!
How has your family played a part in your business?
My late husband was supportive of my business and attended special events with me. My big sister Mavis is a cultural facilitator and she came in to teach how to make hand drums. I didn’t have close family living near me so I relied heavily on my close friends to help out – Lesley & Tammy ❤️
Any of your website links, videos, social media posts, or marketing campaigns you’d like us to highlight (help draw attention/traffic to)?
Any additional info or comments to share with us?
I would like people to know to follow me on my business FB page as that is where I post where my art will be at and for the days that I will be open in Ferguson.